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Leveraging Social Media in Higher Education to Connect Students and Give them Voice and Choice

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Social media can be a powerful enabler for students as long as you follow good practices

I recently sat with Ken Bauer and had a great chat about using social media in courses to achieve numerous benefits for our students. I know I am not the only professional who has become rather frustrated with social media, especially in this era of fake news, astroturfing, etc., so it is very refreshing to hear an experienced educator discuss how he has been using social media in a very positive way with his students for years.

Ken hails from Canada, but he has been at the Tecnológico de Monterrey in Guadalajara for over three decades now. Ken is a professor in the Computing Science Department at this large university (with over 30 campuses). He is recognized as a leader in his institution in educational technology, innovation in pedagogy and is active in providing professional development experiences for his colleagues and staff. Ken is an outspoken advocate for Open Education Resources and he is also the Board Chair for the Flipped Learning Network and the main host of the Ask the FLN podcast.

I reached out to Ken specifically on this subject because I knew he uses Twitter and other social media platforms to help connect with students, give them a voice, and give them more opportunities to connect with each other and with the larger world around them.

Here are a few of things we explore in our discussion:

  • Giving students a choice of platforms to connect with (but not too many choices).
  • Not requiring the use of social media (the LMS is the ‘fall back' for those who do not wish to engage on more public platforms).
  • Using a hashtag to represent a specific course (but not narrowing it to specific terms or sections, thereby gaining a long term resource enabling students to explore the interactions and resources shared by prior students).
  • How these interactions in Twitter, for example, can allow outside experts to weigh in. It can be very exciting for students to see that an industry professional commented on their post.
  • How these types of tools open the door to students who might be reluctant to raise their hand in class.
  • Letting students experience their own Personal Learning Network and start to build a professional digital footprint.

We may not have used all the specific terms I reference in this list, but all of these ideas and more are surfaced in our conversation. Explore for yourself!

Of course, it should be noted that Ken is teaching technology courses, and working predominantly with “traditional aged” college students, so this probably makes it a bit easier than some might find these types of activities to be with working adults in non-technology courses. Nevertheless, there are plenty of good takeaways in this dialogue for all of us interested in this idea.

Thanks again to Ken for taking time from his busy day to talk with us. Find Ken online at @ken_bauer and at https://blog.kenbauer.me/.

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